Satiric Spleen With a Pinch of Smiley Melancholy

Si le ciel et la mer sont noirs comme de l’encre, nos cœurs que tu connais sont remplis de rayons!

Photo by Dan V on Unsplash

Some folks seem to have this rather unique feature of being able to play surgeon on their own soul. They seem to have more awareness of their inner gears and levers, and they write about life as they know it in a very unique style, which I can only describe as Satiric Spleen with a pinch of Smiley Melancholy, if that makes any sense. Like trying to frame the absurdity of life in deadpan humor.

Yes, life can sound like tragedy met with quiet laugh. Life is absurd if you bother to think about it for a couple of minutes. We should not even be here. Life hangs to such tiny probabilities that our very existence is a challenge to the universe. But the real question is mind twisting.

Could the universe even exist if there was no life to witness it? 

Could the universe exist if it was not imagined?

So yeah, Satiric Spleen with a pinch of Smiley Melancholy, until you realize at some point, albeit with a bit of irony, that your life, this miserable and finite comedy, might still underpin the existence of a universe.

And then, standing at the doorstep of this realization, would you not long for something else? Would you not reach further and try to find some kind of hope? Hope that Life itself, with a big L, is at the inception of this universe and that we hold parts of it in us? 

Some would call it God. I know I would. It makes much more sense that way.

If you are wondering about the French subtitle, it is an excerpt of a poem by Charles Baudelaire, which I thought befits the state of ming of a satirist spleener indulging in smiley melancholy. Here is a part of it.

Ô Mort, vieux capitaine, il est temps ! levons l’ancre !
Ce pays nous ennuie, ô Mort ! Appareillons !
Si le ciel et la mer sont noirs comme de l’encre,
Nos cœurs que tu connais sont remplis de rayons !

Verse-nous ton poison pour qu’il nous réconforte !
Nous voulons, tant ce feu nous brûle le cerveau,
Plonger au fond du gouffre, Enfer ou Ciel, qu’importe ?
Au fond de l’Inconnu pour trouver du nouveau !

This essay was inspired to me by the stories of Mike Knittel, great surgeon of the human soul and inner gear specialist before the eternal. Oh and a masterful satirist spleener who takes you to introspective depths with few words, a pinch of Satire, and a tea spoon of irony.

Let the board sound


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Lebanese, French, writing mostly in Frenglish and hoping to make a difference.

One thought on “Satiric Spleen With a Pinch of Smiley Melancholy”

  1. You offer a provocative interpretation of Baudelairean spleen, Rabih.

    But you must remember that the lines you quote from “Le Voyage” are not addressed to God, but to Death (le ‘vieux Capitaine’). These are not words of hope to live by, as you suggest, but in fact words of the most absolute nihilism—words to die by: Having been completely deceived (and disabused of his deceptions) by the absurd comedy of life, M. Baudelaire take his final solace in the absolution of Death.

    If you read the verse closely, you see that it is Death that ‘fills out heart with sunbeams.’ Death—not God—‘knows us’: it knows us so intimately that it is in our hearts—fills our hearts with light. This is the ‘comforting poison’ of the last verse, which he equates with the ‘black ink’ of sky and sea.

    Thus, in these two final verses of the poem, M. Baudelaire presents us with a paradox: the moment of Death, of absolute darkness, blackness and bleakness is the moment of greatest light and levity for this poet whose giant wings (as he says in “L’Albatros”) have been like shackles to this earth that prevent him from walking: The eternally ephemeral quest goes on and renews itself in the nihilism of the poet’s mental suicide; the flâneur’s temporal voyage for novelty to combat his perpetually renascent spleen and ennui continues even after death.

    It’s perfectly true that, in life as in “Les Fleur du mal”, M. Baudelaire never renounces his Catholic belief in the existence of God. But in the last two sections of the book, “Révolte” and “La Mort” (from which “Le Voyage” is drawn), he repeats Lucifer’s rebellion and completely rejects God, pinning his colours to the party of Satan and of all sinners, like Cain and St. Peter, who violently deny that in which they most fervently believe. And finding himself deceived even by the Deceiver, in “La Mort” and “Le Voyage”, he does not reverse himself, does not seek to be absolved of his error by renewing his faith in God, but stubbornly goes on to ‘something new’—a new fad or fashion of belief—pinning his final faith, his final hope, in ‘the old captain’ of Death to take him ‘anywhere out of the world’ and absolve him of the absurd hell of life.

    Thanks for a stimulating read, Rabih.


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